February 2011

3rd February 2011


Phone scam alert! I don't usually write about this kind of thing - but it's an epidemic round here at the moment, so I wanted to make readers aware of these two nasty scams: 'deadly computer virus' and 'Council Tax overpayment'.


'Deadly computer virus' is targeted at Microsoft users, particularly folk who (like me) aren't all that techno-savvy. You'll get a call from someone, probably with a heavy Indian accent, who knows your name/that you have a Microsoft PC, and claiming to be from Microsoft or an internet provider (Microsoft technicians will NEVER call you spontaneously!!). They will tell you either that they've detected your computer has a deadly virus which can destroy your hard drive - and/or that it's sending out such a virus - and they can guide you through the steps to 'fix' it. DON'T PANIC - AND DON'T DO IT!!! This is a LIE - there's nothing wrong with your PC. They want you to log on to a website link which will allow them to install software to gain access to every scrap of data on your machine - then will demand a hefty sum (from £70 - £185) and your card payment details. You can imagine what happens next - apparently some people have had their bank accounts cleaned out by these con-merchants. They've been operating from call-centres in Calcutta since c. 2008, but even though this had quite extensive news coverage, are still at it to an increasing extent.


If you type 'Indian computer virus scam' into your search engine, you can find out lots more. And if you can be bothered to play them along, you're doing a public service - the more of their time you can tie up, the less they'll have to bother more vulnerable targets - The Guardian on-line article has some hilarious reader suggestions about how to respond, my favourite being the wonderfully surreal 'I'm sorry, we don't have a phone'. I've only managed 5 minutes or so with the last two callers - must do better next time!


'Council Tax overpayment' is another that seems to come from an Indian call centre, and is currently active in the Wakefield area. The caller pretends to be from Wakefield Council, and tells you that you've overpaid your Council Tax and are eligible for a refund of several thousand pounds. All you have to do to claim it is pay a £45 'administration fee', for which they need your bank details - and bingo! you can guess the rest. One of Mick's elderly customers was recently bamboozled into giving out her details to one of these people - luckily while he was there, so he helped her phone her bank/the police, cancel her cards etc, but she was very upset by the whole experience. They've tried phoning us, too... but hung up fairly quickly, perhaps because I didn't sound frail/confused enough to fall for it.


Argh - I hate 'em! So please, if you read this, warn anyone you know who might be vulnerable to such approaches - especially elderly family or friends who might be too trusting, or novice computer users who could be frightened by the 'virus' con. The scamsters are obviously hitting Yorkshire hard at the moment - but they're probably active in other regions too.

9th February


Great news for Towton Battlefield Society! The general meeting on Monday was an historic occasion, because our President, Mrs Elizabeth Verity (owner of Towton Hall) and her son, Tom, came along to update us on battlefield developments. The Rockingham Arms refurbishment is going well, as are plans for the new walk route; the interpretation boards are currently being produced (some featuring the Towton paintings by renowned Wars of the Roses artist Graham Turner, who'll be selling prints of his work at our event on 17th April) - and the Veritys hope the boards might even be in place in time for Palm Sunday.


As if that wasn't enough, thanks to Roger Keech TBS also launched its new range of Towton merchandise - DVDs, greetings cards and mounted prints of the iconic lone burr-tree (see left). You can order them through the TBS website or by clicking here for the direct link

DVD Sales Poster

It's been a good week for Herstory, too. On Monday I had the great pleasure of meeting one of Wakefield's most prolific local authors, Dr. Keith Souter, to plan our 'Fact & Fiction' prsentation for the Friends of Sandal Castle open meeting on March 26th. Meanwhile the corrected final proofs of Walk Wakefield 1460 are back with YPS, and (fingers crossed) it'll be launched by then! And yesterday I had lots of fun giving a show n' tell session on interpreting the Battle of Wakefield to 20-odd local history teachers, at the beautiful venue of Walton Hall. The Hall is a beautiful Georgian mansion set in the middle of a lake, former home of the famous naturalist Charles Waterton, who established the world's first nature reserve there. The Hall is now a fabulous hotel and wedding venue with a cracking restaurant, and there's a new building close by, Waterton Park Hotel, which has more eateries and conference facilities. An altogether gorgeous place to visit if you fancy a country walk and a good meal - or want to book a spectacular location for a conference or meeting!


14th February


Spring has sprung - and along with it, a crop of new tasks as we prepare for the TBS battle commemoration on Palm Sunday. Even though our event is tiny compared to, say, the big annual Bosworth re-enactment, for a relatively small historical society it's still a lot of work... much of which goes on behind the scenes, like the job we did yesterday: gathering wood. This is essential for our camping contingent; we all need plenty of firewood to keep the camp-fires burning, the hot drinks flowing, and cook those all-important bacon butties for breakfast! So, since the forecast was fine, we loaded Mick's van with axes, chainsaws and wheelbarrows, and headed off to meet the 'Wooding Team' at Towton, where Mrs Verity has granted us 'common of estovers' - the right to gather fallen wood every year from a copse on her land. So six of us spent a pleasant, if rather squelchy and grubby, couple of hours hunting around among the ivy-entwined trees, collecting everything from twigs for kindling to big dead branches and even chunks hewn from fallen trunks.

chainsaw massacre wood team 2011

We were greatly aided in this endeavour by Peter Algar, one of those rare beings who drives a big 4x4 truck not for its pose value but because he actually needs it... and so did we! The track from the barn to the copse was so deeply rutted, waterlogged and muddy that none of our vehicles could have got up it... so if it hadn't been for the 'Algmobile' we'd have been wheelbarrowing and hand-carrying a ton or more of wood all that way. But the gathering, chopping, trucking and stacking in the barn made for a surprisingly enjoyable (and very satisfying) afternoon - I couldn't believe how quickly 3 hours sped past in the green shade dotted with exquisite clumps of snowdrops - but we were all well ready for a pint at the Greyhound in Saxton when we'd done!

                         Mick threatens to add some chopped Algar to the wood-pile               Wood team 2011: L-R Steve Clegg, Mick, Mick Weaver, Alex Harrison, Peter Algar

walk wakefield cover2

21st February


Hurrah! Just got the gladsome tidings that my little booklet, Walk Wakefield 1460, will be in print very soon - and confirmed its launch date as Saturday, 19th March at the Wakefield branch of Waterstones Booksellers. Waterstones are wonderfully supportive towards local authors, and I'm thrilled to bits that they're hosting this launch/signing session for me (and was also pleased to hear that they're ordering more copies of Wakefield Revisited because they're currently sold out!). So if you feel like coming along next month, hubcap and I will be there in all our medieval glory from 11am - 1pm - you can find directions on the Waterstones website by clicking on 'Store Finder' on the home page.


Mick and I are also getting some coverage on a great website about Yorkshire. The Yorkshire Visitors Guide has loads of information about the county's history, beauty spots, sites of interest and places to stay - and has recently added a section about the Battle of Towton, using a couple of Mike Wilson's images of Mick and the Frei Compagnie. The website also includes book reviews - Peter Algar's historical novel The Shepherd Lord is featured - and since Peter was kind enough to pass a copy of Wakefield Revisited onto the reviewer, it should soon be making an appearance there too!